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Where Republicans Have Made It Harder To Vote (So Far)

Georgia’s new voting restrictions dominated headlines in March, for numerous reasons: It was one of the closest states in last year’s presidential election and the focus of former President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign to get Republicans to overturn the results; the legislation was written in such a way as to have a disproportionate impact on voters of color; and the law inspired an unusual amount of backlash from corporate America, even spurring Major League Baseball to move its All-Star Game out of the state.

But Georgia is hardly the only state that’s made it harder to vote this year. Republican lawmakers have now enacted new voting restrictions in a total of 11 states — Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. 

As we wrote in March, Republican state legislators — inspired by Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud — have introduced hundreds of bills this year that would make it harder to vote. Based on the latest data from the Brennan Center for Justice and our own research, at least 404 voting-restriction bills have now been introduced in 48 state legislatures.1 What’s more, nearly 90 percent of them were sponsored primarily or entirely by Republicans.

Of course, not all of those bills will pass. Of those 404 bills, we count 179 that are already dead — either because they were voted down or weren’t passed before a key deadline. Another 137 bills have not yet progressed beyond the committee stage, and at this point, that inaction bodes poorly for their chances of passage. On the other hand, 63 bills are still worth watching, having passed at least one step of the legislative process (with those that have passed two chambers closer to passage than those that have just passed committee). That leaves 25 bills that are already law (back in March, this number was only six); four states have even enacted multiple such laws.

The highest-profile voting restriction that has been enacted since Georgia’s is Senate Bill 90 in Florida. Among other things, the law requires proof of identity for absentee voting, restricts ballot drop boxes to early-voting sites or election offices (where they can only be used if a staff member is physically present), limits how many absentee ballots a person can deliver for non-family members, and makes absentee-ballot requests good for only one election cycle (previously, they were good for two cycles). Critics also fear that the law could allow Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to stack local election boards with political cronies and intimidate campaigns from giving food and water to voters within 150 feet of a polling place (based on the law’s expanded definition of vote solicitation). DeSantis also signed the bill last Thursday at a signing ceremony that was closed to all members of the press except Fox News, contributing to the partisan acrimony over the legislation.

Of course, as in Georgia, it’s not clear whether Florida’s new law will actually boost Republicans’ chances of winning elections in the perennially competitive state. By making it less easy to vote absentee, the law discourages a voting method that was used overwhelmingly by Democrats in 2020 but was also a source of Republican strength in elections before that.

Other new voting restrictions haven’t gotten as much attention as Florida and Georgia, but they could still affect voting for millions of people and underscore just how widespread Republicans’ push to tighten voting laws has been.

In less than five months, 25 new voting restrictions have already been enacted in 2021. That’s a notable uptick from recent years: The Brennan Center tracked only 14 voting restrictions that became law in 2019 and 2020 combined. It’s likely, too, that that number will continue to grow. Republicans are expected to add even more laws restricting voting access to the books in the coming months — with an omnibus bill in Texas likely to be the next voting restriction to experience the glare of the national spotlight. Stay tuned as we continue to track these bills and explore their implications.

Footnotes

  1. Only Delaware and Vermont have not seen any.

  2. The other is Louisiana.

Nathaniel Rakich is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

Elena Mejía is an associate visual journalist at FiveThirtyEight.

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